Cork hurlers and footballers are in good hands for their mental and physical well-being

Former Munster pair Cathal Sheridan and Jonny Holland guide players with their expertise in sports psychology and nutrition advice
Cork hurlers and footballers are in good hands for their mental and physical well-being

Cork hurling's new mental skills coach Cathal Sheridan seen here at Munster Rugby's headquarters in UL. Photograph Liam Burke Press 22

THIS time last year I interviewed sports psychologist Cathal Sheridan about the impact the first lockdown was likely to have on players.

Little did either of us know at the time that the Sligo-born former scrum-half and now mental skills coach with Munster’s Academy, would team-up with the Cork hurlers for 2021.

It’s become an important element in the group-thought-process as is the nutrition aspect and here’s there another rugby angle in former Munster out-half Jonny Holland, a one-time colleague of Sheridan’s.

Their roles are now even more relevant after the return to collective training once again this week ahead of the new season next month.

“The highest performing teams are the ones that have the strongest relationships,” he said.

And Sheridan, who played for Munster between 2011-17, was quick to emphasise the importance of people staying in touch with each other.

“The basics of human need don’t change and we all still need to be connected, regardless of how much time we put into it.

“People can feel a bit introverted, but it’s important to work on relationships and friendships.

“Routines that people are accustomed to having are now gone out the window. Old habits need to be reformed and re-created again.

“And the main question is: what are your basics like when the proverbial hits the fan? One of the important things is your relationships and what are they like?

“It’s important to be open with people to talk about your emotions and stuff like that.

Another basic is what is your diet like, especially, when your normal routine has been shot in the air?

“If you’re an elite player, your body is your business,” Sheridan stressed.

And this is where Holland, attack coach with Cork Constitution, enters the discussion, especially around the subject of nutrition.

Jonny Holland is the nutritionist for both the Cork hurling and football teams. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Jonny Holland is the nutritionist for both the Cork hurling and football teams. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

“When you’re playing at that elite part of sport you want to give yourself every chance to perform at the best of your ability,” he said.

“There is obviously a conditioning element to that along with the game-part, but your body needs energy to be able to do that, as well.

“In hurling and football, it’s about performing for 70 minutes plus, and it’s 80 in rugby.

“Games are won in the last 10-15 minutes, last quarters and it might even be the last couple of minutes.

“I’m not saying it’s nutrition only, but you must have the energy to be able to pull away.

“That’s the match-day. Then you have the day-to-day factor, when you want to be able to put your best foot forward in training.

“You can do that with proper nutrition which allows you recover quicker, build up more muscle mass to become stronger, fitter and faster.

“Nutrition is one component of all those aspects of your game.

“There are general guidelines about it, carbohydrates for high intensity, potatoes, pasta, rice, porridge oats, all those kind of things.

“For example, there is a big difference between just a puck-around in hurling and a match in terms of intensity and the fuel needed for that.

“Then, maybe a Tuesday training session is more intense than a different session or a weights session after a game on Saturday is a different intensity again.” 

Sheridan recalled sound advice given to him by Corkman Paudie Roche, when he was coming through the Munster Academy.

“He was a great strength and conditioning coach and used to say your body is your business.

“As a professional athlete things are magnified by that aspect. Your routine around your nutrition and exercise is very important.

“That is usually your job that you try and do to the maximum standard. “The thing is to figure it out and maximise that. It’s a real challenge,” he commented.

When it came to handing out advice Sheridan said it wasn’t exactly rocket science.

“It’s more about general behaviour and again it all comes back to the basics. And it not only applies to the sporting context, but everyday living.

“It’s trying to get back to your routine and sticking to it, like getting up at the same time in the mornings and using the time to get your exercise in.”

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